Saturday, July 13, 2013

3D Printing - It Begins


About a week after the Form 1 arrived, the printing resin was finally delivered.  This means it's time to actually start making things!!  Unfortunately, I didn't have the foresight to create a bunch of objects prior to the printer arriving, so I had to improvise and fetch some objects from Thingiverse, an opensource 3D printing design compendium.  However, the very first object I printed was in-fact an object I designed in a rush using CAD.  One of my Miku Nendoroid figure stands broke, so I saw fit to solve the problem with a little creative engineering.  Using digital calipers, I recorded the dimensions of the unbroken stand arm and replicated the piece using dimensional constraints in 3D CAD software.  I saved the model as an .stl file and loaded it into the Form 1's printing software (PreForm).

After generating support geometry (to prevent the model from collapsing or drooping as it's printed), the software automatically slices the model into individual layers (which are programmed pathways that the printer's laser traces or rasterizes during operation) which are then uploaded to the printer itself.  All that's left to do is press the "GO" button on the printer and away it goes!

Printed stand piece on the left, broken part center,
and unbroken reference on the right.

It's pretty awesome seeing the Form 1 in action as the laser rasterizes extremely fast.  After the laser completes a layer, the resin tank lowers and raises back into position which I presume is allow fresh resin to flow under the printed model in preparation for printing the next layer.

Newly printed stand works great!

The figure stand that I designed took about 40 minutes to print and surprisingly looks very similar to the stock piece.  The material properties aren't quite the same (the printed plastic isn't nearly as hard or durable) but visually the printed part looks great!

Printed owl with supports still attached.

Next I downloaded a nice looking owl model off Thingiverse, scaled down the size to a couple inches and sent it off to the printer.  5 hours later and the owl was finished.  The owl print also looks pretty fantastic and is completely smooth to the touch as well.  Small details in the model like the texture of the log are also preserved which is quite impressive.

Printed owl with supports removed.

Profile shot with flash.

So as it stands, I'm really pleased with the capabilities of the Form 1.  However, I really need to design more of my own parts and creations.  I'll be posting more 3D printing updates with this regard in the future so stay tuned!

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